Having done all the necessary jobs and visitations as far as Bundaberg, we set off on a new adventure to visit new places and ones we had been to long ago. New roads are the order of the day but unfortunately they are built on the foundations of the old ones and remain bumpy and uneven.
We made it to Winfield, a small enclave of designer built houses for the well off on the banks of Baffle Creek. The creek came up in the 2012 flood and drowned nearby houses up to two metres in depth/ Our friends had a big job ahead in the restoration and got through the disaster with colours. Nearby there are thousands of Macadamia trees owned and operated by an American company. We managed to scrounge some on the windrow which is all part of our hunting and gathering
We last visited the Town of 1770 and Agnes Waters some 45 years ago when they were backwater hamlets. Today they look like the ‘Gold Coast’ with rich man’s houses and poor mans caravan parks abounding the valleys and hills and billboard advertising everywhere. We came away saddened and made for Miriamvale as we now needed to refuel the MUX
At the information Centre in Miriamvale we discussed driving over Blackman’s Ridge to the Boyne River Valley. I had driven in before a long while back and there was something about it that I needed to be reminded of. It was the very steep and descent on the other side. Someone asked if I knew what I was doing and I said Yes.
We managed second gear over the range and first gear with brakes on down the steep and narrow incline. We were lucky not to meet other vehicles on the pass as the vehicle coming up the range has right of way
A short way down the valley we turned in to The Discovery Centre Recreation ground where we were able to camp for $10 per night and $5 for power for our length of stay. We took that up as rain was forecast and we needed hrd ground to stop on. The rain came all right and it rained hard until a short while after sunrise. Then it stopped and the sun came out and by midday the grounds had dried.
We camped here for a couple of days and then edged on to Gracemere on the fringes of Rockhampton via Calliope. Once again the Queensland roads proved to be tricky with almost dangerous dips, railway crossings and rough surface roads. Rockhampton was busy and we went looking for various items and ended up at shopping mall the size of our hometown
We managed to find Markets over the weekend at the Farmers Market at Yeppoon and The Heritage Market in North Rockhampton. Our journey also took us to Rosslyn Harbour, Emu Park and the Singing Ship and Keppel Sands.
The Singing Ship at Emu Park. A well thought out collection of pipes which catch the breezes and then make haunting sounds
The development in housing and apartments staggered us somewhat having remembered the places as slow easy-going seaside hamlets and now the scenery has changed into a sphere of resort type enclaves. There are still a few old beach shacks and Queenslander Houses around.
Leaving Rockhampton on the last day of school holidays saw a busy road. We pulled in to a Driver Reviver Station and had a chat and a coffee with travellers and locals. We spent the night at St Lawrence Campground with other travellers. There was no fee although a sign at the entrance gate said so. The campground is in the Rodeo Grounds and adjacent to the mangrove swamps, and the mosquitoes chased us inside before dark.
St Lawrence has a history to it when in the 1800’s a Meatworks was established there and meat exported to Brisbane by steamer. It is not known why the endeavour failed.
Clairview Roadside Stop has been closed and instead a community caravan park has been extablished. The ablutions and a Craft Centre can still be found at the old site. Clairview attracts fisherman from all over the country.
At Flaggy Rock Railway Siding another community camping area has been established with about 5 acres of manicured lawns and shower and toilets sand other facilities. We decided to stop and found a good site and set up camp. The Kookaburras gave us their morning and evening choruses and the Plovers hung about nearby as they obviously had an egg they were watching. We slacked off and stayed two nights
The next day we drove out to the coast down a number of roads looking for a beach to explore but were thwarted by the ever encroaching signs of suburbia making access to beaches difficult. We managed one very sharp turnaround at Salonika Beach south of Mackay.
Late afternoon we made it to a cane field close to the road next to the General Gordon Hotel at Homebush Locality. The pub owners were friendly, charged us $5 a head, gave us a good feed at a reasonable price and also let us fill our water tank in the morning. Being on a city by-pass road meant that there was little road noise between 9pm and 2am. Thereafter sleep became erratic as cars and trucks coursed the pavement just metres from us. A late afternoon Cane Fire got our interest. It soon died down however.
Being slightly under the weather from sleep deprivation I had a ‘senior moment’ when refuelling the car at a country store in Calen. I had grabbed the wrong fuel hose and realised my mistake immediately but not before putting .8 of a litre of Unleaded fuel in the diesel tank. I then filled the tank with diesel and rang Isuzu on their Hotline for advice. The advice was to have the tank drained and flushed and that they would have someone call on us within the hour. The friendly RACQ man from just up the road came around and after a discussion with him, we decided that the ingress of petrol of less than 1% of the tank capacity would just mix in with the diesel and dissipate. We checked out another two beaches but the same scenario applied. At Proserpine we bought Heartworm tablets for our furry child and then set off for Hideaway Bay on the coast. Jude managed to obtain the very last site in the caravan park and we settled in to sit out the unseasonal rain which was bearing down on us.
Jude did a Craft session with some other touring ladies at the Caravan Park’s Common Room, the following morning. In the afternoon we drove to Dingo Beach, Gloucester Point and parts of Hideaway Bay gaping at the million dollar houses built there. The road to Gloucester Point is not sealed and was very wet and slippery
Saturday morning saw us drive to Airlie Beach so that Jude could visit a Market on the Foreshore. We were utterly stunned by the development that had happened at Airlie over the past 40 odd years. We drove over to Shute Harbour to see the development and pending development in the form of a Parking Garage for tourists to leave their vehicles. Shying away from the throngs of people and traffic we visited Conway Beach down the coast to find an unrushed , tranquil place with few people about. Nearby Cedar Falls was a sight to see after all the rain.
The following day at Bowen, we marvelled at the wonderful murals before continuing on and finding a bush camp at Plantation Creek Boatramp, east of Ayr, in the late afternoon. It wasn’t the most exciting place but we were tired and this had to do. After some really heavy rain I moved the rig to a better spot and away from the streaming water.
A spot of breakfast at Maccas in Ayr made us resolve to never eat there again. We managed to bypass Townsville and then we called ahead and caught up with an old mate in Ingham for a cuppa. He was in good health and spirits.
This was the week of rain. Driving along the Bruce Highway in the rain wasn’t fun, as trucks would splash huge amounts of water at the windscreen with their rows of wheels.
At Cowley Beach Caravan Park we booked in for a week. Managed to park the van on a cement slab. It was actually the slab that we camped on, way back in 1996. Not much has changed at Cowley Beach over 20 years, There are some new self contained units but the reception office and the ablution blocks still look drab and old. The management is no better. The only consolation is that the beach was only 100 metres from our van. Unfortunately we could not get a beachfront site we had in the past but the one we had would suffice.
We went for a number of drives to wineries, markets and various shops and stores whilst at Cowley Beach. The following Monday we were on the road again, this time heading for the Atherton Tableland.
Apart from the lush jungle vegetation of the far north and the endless fields of sugar cane Bananas and Paw Paws grow in profusion. Apparently three quarters of the total banana production of Australia is grown in the Innisfail area
A common native wanderer north of the Sydney and right up into Cape York and the wet tropics is the Brush Turkey or more commonly known as the BushTurkey.
Visiting Mungalli Bio Diverse Dairy and the driving the Waterfalls Tourist Route made for steep uphills and downhills with the caravan in tow and some very tight turn-arounds and especially at Millaa Millaa Falls. The latter was flowing beautifully after the recent unseasonal rains
We stopped at the Millaa Millaa Caravan Park for two nights to let Jude get over a bout of sneezing and coughing, We thought about staying longer and doing some local drives but we had light rain and the site turned into mud. At Malanda we did some shopping for supplies and at Gallo Dairy Farm we bought cheese and chocolates. The next tourist stop was the Coffee Works in Mareeba where a coffee percolator was acquired. We had lunch at Jacques Coffee Plantation, bought a curio and did a refuel at Mount Molloy and pulled up for the night at Bustard Downs farm. The amenities were good but not suited for disabled people. Each campsite had a lean-to cover and cement slab. But there wasn’t much room for error as we found out the next morning. We had to unhitch and manually swing the van away after I swung the van out too early and touched the steel upright. We got out of that one unscathed and decided that Bustard Downs was more like Bastard Downs
We had another early camp at Laura in the grounds owned by the Roadhouse after climbing the ranges and then descending them again. The road from Laura to Musgrave Roadhouse was good but from there on there were some serious corrugations which were unescapable. There are now a number of sealed sections on the Peninsula Developmental Road bringing relief from the rattles at times
Our days of rest from driving came at Big Bend of the Coen River. The crystal clear waters of the river invite you to sit there and dream the day away. Excitement however was about to befall us. The cattle station which surrounds the town and town common of Coen were mustering stray cattle. A helicopter, a Stockman on horseback, a Stockman on a Quad bike and two cattle dogs were working hard to get the last bull to co-operate. All this was taking place across the waters from us and about 50metres in distance. The bull then decided to cross the shallow river and came up the embankment on our side and made for us stopping a mere 5 metres from me. I tried to shoo it away but then thought the better of it and herded Jude and Blaise and myself into the caravan. The bull then saw no more antagonists and took off around the back of the van. The stockmen then lassooed it and brought it to the ground. Later in the day a truck and trailer arrived and the tied up bull was winched on and taken away. We did not learn its fate.
We cooked our meal on the fire and later in the evening our neighbours came over for a chat. The Brown Tree Frogs kept serenading us with their chirping.
Nothing much happened the next day and the day after that we drove the last 260km to Weipa. About 160km is gravel road and the rest is sealed. The gravel bits were not too badly corrugated and the road improved markedly after the Y junction where the road splits to Weipa or Cape York.
There were some seriously deep dips in the road and I drove with great care. We were stopped at the Haul Road by a Boom Gate and a Traffic Light and had to wait about 10 minutes for the Haul Road to clear before we were allowed to cross
We made it to our site in the caravan park which had easy access to all amenities
To be continued….